Cumberland County takes steps to help unemployed vets
Posted January 18, 2012
Fayetteville, N.C. — Veterans of the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan put years of their lives on hold to serve the nation. Now, as they try to transition back into civilian life, a record number of them are unable to find work, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Federal data shows 13 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are unemployed, up nearly two percent from this time last year.
Veterans in Fayetteville, which is home to Fort Bragg, one of the nation's largest military installations, are no exception.
But the Cumberland County Employment Security Commission office is giving them priority, moving them to the front of the unemployment line and offering counseling to help them market their military skill set to civilian job opportunities.
"We actually promote our veterans," said Cumberland ESC manager Edith Edmond. "We go out into the community explaining to employers why they should hire veterans. (We) encourage it."
Edmond estimates that more than half of the ESC's clients are veterans. The end of the Iraq War, she added, is fueling the unemployment rate among them.
Steven Scibelli joined the Army four years ago to avoid unemployment lines, but now he finds himself standing in them anyway. At 36, he was twice the age of many of his fellow recruits, and decided to enlist when his work as a carpenter began drying up in the recession.
Despite being jobless in an economy that's been slow to recover, Scibelli said his military experience has made him a better candidate.
"What the Army offers you is a lot of life's necessities – being very team-oriented, being goal-oriented, learning how to be on time," he said.
While he continues his search, he enrolled at Fayetteville Technical Community College to study computer forensics.
Alexis Miranda, 38, deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq before leaving the Army Dec. 1. Since that time, he has had one job offer, but he turned it down because it required too much travel.
Miranda wants to be able to spend more time with his 15-year-old daughter, especially after having to spend so much time overseas.
He's not giving up until he finds a job that allows him to focus on fatherhood.
"One thing I can honestly say for all the Armed Forces is their dedication, of not quitting," he said. "I know my qualifications will get me there. I'm going to succeed."
After 20 years as an operations supervisor in the Army, Marshall Fife retired last month, eager to begin a new civilian career.
"We put ourselves out there on the line to go fight for the country," Fife said. "When we come back, we at least want to try to come back in the work force."
But the military is the only career Fife has ever known, making his job search all the more daunting.
"It's all been a wake-up call. Soldiers get ready to retire and get out, they get anxious, they get nervous and a lot of them get scared," he said. "It's been a little exhausting."